We have a long and complicated history with Friendly's. I'm not making any broad sweeping statements about the state of Friendly's restaurants throughout the US, but in general, we've found that the employees of Friendly's in our area are not, in fact, friendly.

One time The KingofHearts and I stopped in to the one near where we were living at the time for a quick bite and we were told they could not seat us because they had no food. Not: they were out of hamburgers, or bread, or milk necessary for the making of ice cream, but "no food." I asked why they didn't just close the restaurant and we were shooed out the door without so much as an "I'm sorry, come again sometime when we do have food." I wouldn't hold that one experience against the whole chain, but it seemed every time we walked into a Friendly's no matter where it was, we had a near Denny's experience. That's when we began referring to the restaurant as "Hostile's."

A couple of years ago, a Friendly's opened near where we now live. We stop in there every so often and find that we can always count on three things, slow service, lots of tables that need to be bussed, and that patented East coast Friendly's hostile attitude. So, needless to say, we don't go there a lot.

This weekend The Dormouse was invited to a birthday party for one of her friends which was held... you guess it... at Friendly's.
I would never have thought in a million years of holding kids' birthday parties there but apparently, it's not all that uncommon, because there was a whole brochure on the experience handed out to all the parents there. It promised:

The "Funnest" Parties
A party at Friendly's is a "no stress" birthday party because we handle everything, from invitation to clean up. Kids have a blast and parents rest easy.

Ignoring the inappropriate use of the quotation marks, let's evaluate. The brochure boasts:

  • Invitations addressed, stamped and mailed for you!
    (ours was handed out by a four year old at preschool)
  • Awesome Kids' Meals
    (as long as your kid enjoys chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese)
  • Kid Friendly Cup with color changing straw
    (That will be served to your child a full twenty-five minutes before the meals come -- at which time all the kids will have consumed all the drinks. You parents will need to ask three times for some water to go with the meals. That, of course will be brought out ten minutes after the last child finished eating.)
  • Friendly's birthday song
    (As long as you don't expect any Friendly employees to sing it because they don't know what you're talking about. Is there really even a Friendly's birthday song? You will sing Happy Birthday yourself.)
  • Activity Book or placemat & crayons
    (Or crayons at least. The activity book is really the birthday tablecloth that the birthday girl's mother brought. The kids will enjoy drawing on it however. Also putting holes in it with their crayons.)
  • Fun Friendly's apron
    (...that your child will refuse to wear, because... what the hell... a paper apron? Even a child knows it's only marginally classier than a lobster bib.)
  • A designated party area for up to an hour and a half and a party attendant
    (And you'll need that hour and a half because there will be thirty minutes between the end of one course and the beginning of the next. And because drinks are considered a course. Also, you'll need to continually stop the party and shoo the kids to the sidelines because the "party attendant" keeps bringing elderly couples right through the middle of your party to seat them -- even though there is another route through the non-party area.)
  • A helium balloon for every child
    (And every child will let go of it between the front door and the car.)
  • All the set-up and clean up
    (If by set up, you mean the table and chairs are already there. If you want decorations or a table cloth, you gots to do that yourself.)
  • Your choice of an ice cream cake or a "create your own sundae" event.
    (Ours was the create a sundae. Twenty minutes after the last child knocks his empty plate on the floor, the "party attendant" will bring out three bowls of gummy bears and sprinkles and set them in front of the kids. She will expect them not to eat the candy for fifteen more minutes when she brings two bowls of ice cream on which to put said candy. She will not dish up the ice cream. She will simply put the bowls down on the table and leave, expecting four year olds to do it themselves without coating the walls with ice cream. You parents will freak and all jump up to make the sundaes for the kids. There will be no whipped cream, there will be no chocolate sauce, no maraschino cherries, no nuts... just the scoop of ice cream with some crappy sprinkles on it.)
  • A Friendly's Awesome Birthday Bash T-shirt for the birthday child
    (They have to provide this to convince the child she did, in fact have an awesome birthday bash.)
  • A nametag for each child.
    (This, I can aver, is accurate.)

So... if you're looking for a great birthday idea for your kid and you're tired of all those fun moon bounce, clown and magic show type parties, may I suggest Friendly's? Because at least when the party attendant brings the bill and you ask "Is the tip included?" the party attendant will say testily, "I don't know." ...and you will feel justified when you don't tip her.